• Cuban Dissident Wins EU Award

    December 17, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Earlier this week, Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas was awarded the European Union’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.  Mr. Fariñas, however, was unable to accept the award in person after Cuban authorities denied him papers to leave the country.  In his place, the presenters of the Sakharov Prize left Mr. Fariñas chair empty with just a Cuban flag draped over it and his prize.

    The Sakharov Prize is awarded to each year to “exceptional individuals who combat intolerance, fanaticism and oppression.”  In awarding this year’s prize to Mr. Fariñas in absentia, European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek noted that the purpose of the prize was to eliminate exactly the situations that prevented Mr. Fariñas from traveling to the award ceremony.  “Even though activists like Guillermo Fariñas are persecuted and are imprisoned, their voice cannot be silenced.  The role of the European Parliament is to amplify that voice,” President Buzek said.

    Mr. Fariñas was able to address the attendees at the award ceremony through a recorded video message in which he urged the EU to “not allow themselves to be deceived by the siren songs of a cruel regime practicing ‘wild communism.’”

    This year’s award to Mr. Fariñas marks the third time in the past eight years that the award has gone to Cuban citizens.  Mr. Oswaldo José Payá  Sariñas won the prize in 2002 and the Ladies in White won the award in 2005.

    Tags: Human Rights, human rights in Cuba, European Union

  • Cuba's Guillermo Fariñas Prevented from Receiving European Prize

    December 16, 2010

    by Frank Calzon

    The European Parliament awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Guillermo Fariñas, a psychologist and independent journalist from the City of Santa Clara in central Cuba. Fariñas has been imprisoned 11 different times for his advocacy for a peaceful transition to democracy and the rule of law on the island. He received worldwide attention after the death of Orland Zapata Tamayo, a political prisoner who died during a hunger strike calling for better treatment for Castro's political captives. The Cuban authorities denied Tamayo water during the last 18 days of his life.

    On December 10 the Cuban government refused to permit Guillermo Fariñas to travel to Strasbourg, France, to receive the award. An empty chair draped in a Cuban flag was placed on stage to represent his absence. Fariñas recorded an acceptance speech in Cuba, which was played for members of the European Parliament at the ceremony. According to Fariñas, the Cuban government's refusal to let him travel was "the most irrefutable witness to the fact that unfortunately, nothing has changed in the autocratic system ruling my country...In the minds of Cuba's current rulers, we Cuban citizens are just like the slaves from whom I am descended, kidnapped in Africa and brought to the Americas by force. For any other ordinary citizen to be able to travel abroad, I need a Carta de Libertad, that is a Freedom Card, just as the slaves did; Only today it is called a Carta Blanca, a White Card."

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    Tags: Cuba, Freedom of Speech

  • Argentina’s Poor Wreak Havoc

    December 16, 2010

    by Janie Hulse Najenson

    Last week, thousands of poor families (13,000 people according to initial government counts), mostly non-citizens from bordering countries, took over a huge Indoamericano park nearby the Buenos Aires city town of Villa Soldati, and began constructing makeshift homes. The lack of immediate government response to the public park squatters, led angry neighbors to attempt to forcibly kick them out. The result was dramatic civilian riots and clashes reminiscent of 2001 that led to three dead, two Bolivians and one Paraguayan. More than just an embarrassing scene for both national and city governments, the act, which has led to a propagation of similar take-overs, reveals major socioeconomic deficiencies and highlights real concerns over political extortion and sabotage.

    Shortly after the Villa Soldati riots, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner acquiesced to demands to send the Gendarmerie and Navy Prefectorate to control the park. The president, however, refused to clear the park and decided instead to erect barricades to protect the protestors as the government conducted a census. Somewhat ironically, televised reporting revealed caged, angry squatters demanding provisions like food and water from the government as if they were being held prisoners.

    If he had the equipment and manpower at his disposal, the city´s conservative mayor, Maurcio Macri, would have cleared the park, but his newly created metropolitan police force does not have mob control capacity. In the initial stages of the fiasco, the mayor argued that the national government is responsible for maintaining public order. But the president refused to treat the squatting as illegal, referring to it rather as a protest and demanding that the mayor provide suitable housing for the masses.

    The episode was so dramatic and disturbing, that shortly thereafter that President Fernández de Kirchner ordered the creation of a new security ministry and appointed the acting minister of defense since 2005, Nilda Garré, at its helm. She then appointed the former governor of Santa Cruz Province, Arturo Puricelli, as the minister of defense. Most of the political opposition criticized the move as rash decision-making, but most agree that the country is in desperate need of a clearly defined security policy. According to the local media, the first mission of the newly created ministry will be to purge the federal police and create strict government control of the forces to ensure a focus on human rights and transparency. Ms. Garré has also announced the creation of a “citizen participation” commission to incorporate representatives from civil society to control security forces.

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    Tags: Argentina, Buenos Aires

  • Why Voters Like Bipartisanship

    December 16, 2010

    by John Parisella

    Power sharing, coalition, divided, or minority government are usually terms associated with democracies in Europe or Asia.  Left- or right-wing coalitions usually dominate the political alignments in those countries.  In North America, political parties are usually broad-based coalitions with progressive, moderate and conservative wings.  Even the Conservative Party and Liberal Party in Canada represent a more divergent scope of views than their labels suggest.  In the U.S., Democrats and Republicans have similar characteristics that have evolved over time.  But trends, as observed in recent elections, indicate that democracies in general are witnessing wider electoral coalitions and consequently greater power sharing in their governance.

    In Canada, the parliamentary system is currently composed of four parliamentary party caucuses including the ruling Conservatives, the official opposition Liberals and third parties such as New Democratic Party and Bloc Québécois.  Canada is now entering a sixth year of minority rule under Conservative Stephen Harper’s leadership.  The last period in Canadian history with such a long run of minority government occurred in the 1963-1968 period under Liberal Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson.

    Having personally served in successive majority governments in Québec (1985-1994) and worked in a minority government (2007), I concede that a majority government has obvious advantages in terms of pushing its agenda.  However, with party allegiances more fragile than ever in Canadian history, one can expect to have more minority governments or power-sharing arrangements.  The latest polls indicate that Canadians seem at ease with the current minority government situation.

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    Tags: Quebec

  • National Assembly on Verge of Awarding Chávez Decree Powers

    December 16, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Venezuela’s National Assembly announced this morning that it is prepared to pass the Enabling Law, (Ley Habilitante) that will award President Hugo Chávez the power to legislate by executive decree once the new Congress convenes on January 5. The Assembly’s declaration is a nod to Chávez’ stated intention to seek such authority.

    President Chávez insists that he needs to bypass typical legislative procedure to respond swiftly to the recent national floods that have resulted in 40 deaths, 130,000 displaced persons and tens of millions of dollars in damages. He has previously indicated that he will use his expanded decree to further regulate the Internet and increase the national value-added tax. Analysts also suspect additional measures that will precede the 2012 presidential election, for which Chávez has already announced his candidacy for re-election.

    The current Assembly has entered a lame-duck phase after parliamentary elections in September saw a large shift in voter preferences. Chávez’ party, Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV), lost 41 seats while a coalition of opposition parties—under the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD) label—gained 61. Although the PSUV will remain in the majority come January, a two-thirds consensus is required to pass sweeping reforms. The MUD will occupy over 40 percent of seats in the next Assembly, effectively blocking such measures.

    The passage of the Enabling Law would mark the fourth time in 11 years that President Chávez has been granted such authority. Chávez has noted that the latest decree may last up to 18 months.

    Tags: Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, 2010 Venezuela Elections

  • Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

    December 16, 2010

    by AS-COA Online

    From the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.

    Sign up to receive the Weekly Roundup via email.

    Come Again: Recount or Revote in Haiti?

    With concerns running high about electoral fraud in Haiti’s November 28 presidential vote, some observers—including former U.S. President Bill Clinton—have called for a ballot recount. But third-place finisher Michel Martelly believes electoral officials should take it a step further and hold a revote on January 16, the date slated for a runoff between Mirlande Manigat and Jude Célestin. Martelly finished less than 7,000 votes behind Célestin, who was endorsed by current President Réne Préval. PBS NewsHour spoke with Joel Dreyfuss, native of Haiti and editor of, about a potential recount and suspicions about the neutrality if Haiti’s electoral commission.

    Read an AS/COA Online analysis about the Haiti’s disputed presidential vote.

    Read More

    Tags: Haiti

  • DREAMing of Citizenship: An Interview with Gaby Pacheco

    December 15, 2010

    by Daniel Altschuler

    With the House passing the DREAM (Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act last Wednesday and the Senate set to vote on it as soon as this Friday, now is a good time for a personal account of what’s at stake with DREAM. 

    Gaby Pacheco, a 25 year-old undocumented immigrant whose parents brought her from Ecuador to the United States at age 7, has been an outspoken advocate for DREAM since 2004.  In addition to her work with Students Working for Equal Rights and the Florida Immigrant Coalition, she joined three other undocumented students on the Trail of Dreams earlier this year—a four-month walk from Miami to the nation’s capital—to call attention to the plight of the roughly 2 million undocumented people brought to this country as minors.  We spoke about her experience as an undocumented child, her involvement in DREAM advocacy and some of the difficult compromises involved in getting the DREAM Act through the Congress.

    Altschuler: I was hoping you could start out by telling me a bit about your personal story and how you became aware of the immigration issue.

    Pacheco: I’ve been in the United States for 18 years.  I was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, but I was raised in Miami, Florida.  I started in the 3rd grade, and I scored really high in math and science, so I was put in a gifted program.  That gave me confidence to believe in myself, and my teachers instilled in me a great desire to achieve and persevere, with the idea of achieving the American dream—that if we work really hard, we can achieve anything that we set our minds to. 

    At elementary school, I was in the choir, and I would stay after-school helping the teachers grade papers.  I guess you could call me a teacher’s pet, but I just really loved school.

    In middle school, I started getting into honors classes.  In high school, I took AP classes, and I was part of the cross-country, basketball and the track-and-field teams. I was part of the ROTC program with the Army and the Navy and was one of the top students in the school. 

    The first time I started finding out that there was something wrong was in the 8th grade.   One of my two sisters had finished high school, but she wasn’t able to go to school and continue her path—she wanted to be a nurse.  It shocked me, so I started working even harder.  And then in 10th grade, I took Drivers Ed, and I took all the paperwork that they’d given us.  They told me, “All you need to do is fill out these papers and they’ll give you your learner’s permit.” So I did do that, and I was really happy, but then I got turned down.  And then my dad said, “That’s OK, we’ll just go to another office.”  But then I kept getting turned down.  I was missing a paper that was going to stop me—not only from driving, but also potentially from going to college.

    In 12th grade, when I graduated from high school, I confronted that issue.  But, thankfully, Miami-Dade College opened the doors to me and other students.  I was able to excel.  I was student government president—not just of my college, but of the 28 colleges in the whole college system in the state of Florida.  In 2006, I was representing 1.1 million students and had the opportunity to meet with the governor and senators and promote legislation that actually became law.  I was really proud of myself.  When I graduated from college, I thought I had proven everybody wrong, and maybe there was some way that I was going to be able to somehow find a reprieve.  But I went to lawyers, and they told me that wasn’t going to happen. 

    Altschuler: How did you get involved in advocating for the DREAM Act?

    Pacheco: I became an advocate for the DREAM Act in 2004.  And now, more than ever, it’s crucial that we get the DREAM Act passed. 

    I’m formally connected to, which does online organizing.  And I came from the Florida Immigrant Coalition, and I was one of the founders of Students Working for Equal Rights in the state of Florida.  From four of us that used to meet to try to pass the DREAM Act, we now have 16 chapters throughout Florida.  Students Working for Equal Rights is part of the United We Dream network, which is led by students and represents 26 states.

    This year, along with Felipe, Carlos and Juan—we walked from Miami to DC. And last week, I was able to witness passage of the DREAM Act from the House gallery.  This week, we’re looking forward to talking to our senators to try to get a favorable vote either this week or next week for the DREAM Act.

    Altschuler: Could you share with me your position on the DREAM legislation in its current form, after negotiators opted to reduce the age limit (from 34 to 29 years old) and the extension of the waiting period for citizenship (10 years before one can apply for citizenship) to get the bill through the House?

    Pacheco: For me, it was really tough to see the DREAM Act change, and change in such a dramatic way.  Now it will leave out my sister, for instance.  The reason I’ve been fighting so hard has been for her.  Actually, December 14, is her birthday—she turned 31.  And so I thought that the legislation would have passed by now, and I thought that if the legislation changed, it would be for 30 or under.  She was fighting so hard, is so bright—she wants to be in the Air Force—and now will be left out, unable to do anything. 

    But at the same time, it’s still good legislation, and it would still allow potentially 1 million students to fulfill their dreams.

    Altschuler: Can you tell me about the discussions between the pro-DREAM groups about the compromises that were on the table?

    Pacheco: For us, the compromises and the changes came at a high cost.  But, at the same time, we understood that they were needed to push forward and have the bill where it is today.  For us, that was the bottom line.  We don’t want the legislation to change anymore, because we don’t want to lose any more students.

    So, as a collective, at all the different stages, we did have a call where we discussed it, and everybody took a vote.  The majority—and it was almost unanimous—felt that this was what we needed to do, and that we needed to move forward.  But making sure that we are keeping our leaders responsible—making sure that these changes would allow more senators to vote for it.

    Altschuler: How concerned are you about the possibility of there being further concessions to DREAM—for instance, on enforcement provisions—to get it passed in the Senate?  Would you and other pro-DREAM groups stay on board?

    Pacheco: There are definitely concerns about what might get attached to it.  And I think a lot of people are aware of where the limits are going to be.  But, because we haven’t seen the language yet, we’re just worrying about pushing it forward.  At the same time, we respect the decisions that the organizations from border states make.  They’re the ones that will be most affected, and their voices will be crucial in how we want to move the legislation forward.  Because we do not want to hurt people in the process of helping others.  And that’s one of the beautiful things about being united—that we can have these conversations and say, “Arizona, how do you feel about this?  Texas, how do you feel about this?  California, how do you feel about this?”  Because we’re a family, we’re a community, and we need to make sure that everyone’s going to be OK.  So there will probably be a time when we have to talk if the legislation comes with extreme things that we cannot allow.  And I think we’ll stand together if it does have things that are unacceptable to our community.

    Altschuler: Can you tell me about the recent activities in which you’ve been involved to promote DREAM?

    Pacheco: Tuesday was an incredible day.  We had faith leaders from all different religious backgrounds and states come to DC.  In the morning, we had a press conference, and the different religious leaders had the opportunity to speak to say why it’s important for DREAM to pass.  We had organizations that represent millions of people saying that this is something they want.  Also, the faith leader who was leading the press conference said, “If the senators don’t pass this, they’re going to have to deal with us, and all the Christians, Muslims, and Jews that are represented here.  We’re going to open our universities and colleges, and we’re going to go against the laws, because they’re going against the will of God.”  And it was really amazing to see older preachers saying, “We’re going to do civil disobedience and they’re going to have to go through us to get to these students.”  It fills our souls and our hearts. Having people from the faith backgrounds supporting us is really key.

    There is also the Jericho Walk around the Senate by the students.  And the faith leaders joined, and they went to every single one of the buildings and the Capitol, where they had the students in the middle and the religious leaders praying around them.  And, before that, all the students got together and sang the national anthem.  And after that, we walked into the Senate Hart building, where there were prayers, and then the religious leaders did pray-ins in Senate offices with the students.  We went to the offices of Senators Sessions, Lemieux, Hutchinson, Landrieu, McCaskill, Brownback, and many others.

    Altschuler: One final thing—assuming the DREAM Act passes, what would becoming a citizen mean to you?

    Pacheco: It would be a golden key for success.  It would be the ability to use the talents and gifts that I have to give back to this country.  The DREAM Act would mean the realization of the dreams that I have, and unleashing the potential of hundreds of thousands of students throughout the United States.

    *Daniel Altschuler is a contributing blogger to  He is a Copeland Fellow at Amherst College and a doctoral candidate in Politics at the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. His research focuses on civic and political participation in Honduras and Guatemala.

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    Tags: Immigration Policy, U.S. Congress, DREAM Act

  • Millennium Development Goal Achieved in Brazil

    December 15, 2010

    by AQ Online

    The Brazilian health ministry announced on Tuesday that the country’s drop in childhood malnutrition, coupled with other social progress initiatives, meet the criteria for eradication of extreme poverty under the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  Health Minister José Gomes Temporão pointed out that the proportion of underweight Brazilian children under 5 years fell to only 1.8 percent between 1989 and 2006. Together with substantial reductions in the number of people living on less than $1 per day, these are signs of having achieved the MDGs on the eradication of extreme poverty ahead of the 2015 deadline. 

    Minister Temporão also noted that the country is on target to achieve reductions in child mortality rates, another Millennium Development Goal, by 2012 if the country “stay’s its present course.”  With infant mortality rates dropping by 58 percent between 1990 and 2008, equivalent to 22.8 deaths per 1,000 live births, the Minister expects the number to drop to 17.8 deaths per 1,000 live births within three years meeting the UN’s Millennium Development Goal

    Other notable achievements, according to Brazil’s health ministry, include reductions in maternal mortality rates of 56 percent over the last 18 years as well as a 75 percent drop in infant mortality rates (infants in their first year of life) to only 6 deaths per 1,000 live births.

    Tags: Brazil, Economic Development, Poverty and inequality, UN Millennium Development Goals

  • Cuba Launches Version of Wikipedia

    December 14, 2010

    by AQ Online

    The Cuban government unveiled—its version of Wikipedia—on Tuesday, but its debut was complicated by connectivity issues. Only about 1.6 million Cubans have Internet access, out of a population of 11.2 million, and many found it difficult to navigate away from the site’s homepage.

    The website has over 19,600 entries, and claims to provide visitors with “a democratizing, not-for-profit, objective, non-colonial” viewpoint. Unlike Wikipedia, EcuRed users must be pre-approved by site administrators before creating new entries or editing existing ones.

    The entry on the United States describes it as “the empire of our time” and a country that "has taken by force" territory and natural resources from other nations, to put at the service of its businesses and monopolies. Meanwhile, the entry on former U.S. President George W. Bush describes “a long family history of dirty business, tricks and government intrigue.”

    As of today, the encyclopedia has no entries on President Raúl Castro's controversial economic reforms, Damas de Blanco, or on well-known dissident Guillermo Fariñas, who this year was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

    Tags: Cuba, Wikipedia

  • Justicia y Derechos Humanos en Argentina

    December 14, 2010

    by Jenny Manrique

    Cinco años después de la declaración de inconstitucionalidad de las leyes de Obediencia Debida y Punto Final que reabrió los Juicios por crímenes de lesa humanidad cometidos en la dictadura argentina, son gratificantes los avances para las víctimas que de a poco van encontrando las anheladas justicia y verdad, pero también muchos los retos que enfrenta un sistema judicial desbordado que juzga a represores que se están muriendo sin siquiera tener condenas firmes.

    El 29 de abril de 1977 el Diario la Opinión registraba un enfrentamiento entre subversivos y Ejército, con un saldo de cinco guerrilleros muertos. El pasado 16 de noviembre Patricia Bernardi, una de las fundadoras del Equipo Argentino de Antropología Forense (EAAF), entró al tribunal donde se sigue el juicio a los represores del Centro de Detención el Vesubio y pruebas periciales en mano, demostró que no, que no eran subversivos, que habían sido secuestrados y luego asesinados a balazos en Juncal y Rivadavia a las 2:30 a.m., según consta en sus actas de defunción.

    “Era mostrarle a la justicia que eso que se leyó como un tiroteo, era un traslado y un asesinato de gente”, cuenta Patricia quien por cuarta vez declaraba como testigo pericial en los juicios reactivados en 2005, en algunos de ellos incluso frente a represores, a quienes paradójicamente les tiene que explicar qué es un orificio de bala. “Me parece que son una madera, nada los moviliza. Pero no es mi objetivo sensibilizarlos, sino que el juez crea que la prueba científica es válida y el familiar crea en la identificación”.

    Patricia habla desde las oficinas del EAAF, creado en 1984, en las que a partir de perfiles biológicos de los esqueletos (exhumados en fosas comunes de cementerios municipales o predios militares), evidencias balísticas, análisis de documentación (libros de cementerio, testimonios y archivos policiales que registran simples NN o nombres de guerra), y el avance de la genética, se ha logrado hasta la fecha la identificación de 300 personas. De un promedio de 1000 exhumaciones aún hay 600 restos sin identificar que reposan en el laboratorio de Buenos Aires y otras provincias como Córdoba y Tucumán donde la represión fue fuerte.

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    Tags: Human Rights, Argentina, Argentina human rights

  • Bolivia Only Country to Reject Environmental Accord

    December 13, 2010

    by AQ Online

    On Saturday, world leaders hailed a breakthrough in the latest round of UN-sponsored talks on climate change. At the summit in Cancún, Mexico, the parties reached an agreement that mandates developed countries to allocate $100 billion to help developing countries combat global warming and high emissions. Mexican President Felipe Calderón hailed the deal as the beginning of “a new era of cooperation in climate change.” But that euphoria was not shared by the Bolivian delegation—the sole voice of opposition to the measure among 193 countries. 

    Bolivian Ambassador to the United Nations, Pablo Solón, referred to the agreement as “hollow,” and claimed it did not go far enough in accountability for industrialized economies. Ambassador Solón saw many of his original demands unfulfilled at the talks, known as COP16. His requests included the creation of an International Court of Climatic Justice and a reduction of the target rise in global temperature for the twenty-first century to 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit—half of the agreed amount at last year’s talks. Angered on Saturday, Solón issued a warning: “[the Cancún agreement] will bear human and natural casualties.”

    Ambassador Solón also lamented the lack of overall progress during COP16 in renegotiating the Kyoto Protocol, originally signed in 1997 and set to expire in 2012. The Kyoto Protocol imposes limits on greenhouse gases for 37 developed nations and the European Union. Because the Cancún accord did not address any reforms to the Kyoto Protocol, or even mention its possible extension, those core issues will presumably be discussed at COP17—to take place in South Africa in late 2011.

    Tags: Bolivia, Mexico, Global Warming, United Nations Climate Change Conference

  • Key Questions as DREAM Debate Heats Up

    December 13, 2010

    by Daniel Altschuler

    Last week, immigration reform advocates cheered as the DREAM (Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act passed the House of Representatives. DREAM, which would provide a path to citizenship to undocumented youths brought to the U.S. by their parents conditional upon them attending college for two years or serving in the military, was all but certain to fail in the Senate. But the passage in the House gave advocates new life. Now, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has tabled the Senate version of DREAM with the hopes of passing the House version before the lame-duck session ends. Passing the House bill would skip the “conference” process that is required when the House and Senate pass substantively different versions of legislation. The obvious question for now is: does DREAM have a chance? Things are moving very fast in Washington these days, so, while DREAM remains a long shot, it’s hard to make any determinations with any certainty. But certain key questions have become clear, and the answers to them may prove the determining factors in the days to come.

    The most obvious and over-arching question is whether Democrats can get enough of their conservative members and Republicans on-board. Dick Lugar (R-IN) is the first and only Republican who has said he will support DREAM in its current form. But he, like all his Republican colleagues, pledged not to support any legislation before a tax deal was resolved. So, DREAM’s fate is tied to whether and how a tax deal materializes. But there’s also a content issue—namely, how much would DREAM advocates have to concede to Republicans to get the bill passed. This raises a few more questions.

    The second key question is: what concessions might DREAM advocates be willing to make on immigration enforcement to get the bill passed? Republicans have long made the dubious “enforcement-first” argument—namely, that the government must massively increase enforcement (which it has done under Presidents Bush and Obama) before Republicans will talk about legalizing undocumented people (which they consistently refuse to do). So, one way to try to appease Republican senators would be to add punitive measures to DREAM that would threaten more deportations and/or greater militarization of the border. But, as Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, acknowledged to me in September, “the risk [of a piecemeal strategy] is that the enforcement measures are disproportionate”. Already, the Reform Immigration FOR America Coalition has been criticized from the Left for giving up too much on enforcement in its unsuccessful pushes for a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2007 and 2010. More recently, Democrats and pro-immigrant advocates made sacrifices on DREAM—e.g. reducing the age maximum from 34 to 29 and increasing the period for legalization to 10 years—to increase its chances of passage. As this week unfolds, tension will rise between A) conceding on their ideals vis-à-vis enforcement and B) the pressure of knowing that this will be the best opportunity to pass immigrant-friendly legislation for the next two years.

    The third critical issue will be whether there is enough time to make a deal on DREAM. The lame-duck session is tentatively scheduled to end on Friday, December 17. With the tax cut debate still raging and the START Treaty and defense authorization issue still on the debate, time is in short supply. The clock could quite easily run out before DREAM advocates get enough senators on their side. That said, the Democratic leadership could alternatively opt to extend the session, which could improve DREAM’s odds. Last year, the Senate was still in session on Christmas Eve, and the stakes seem at least as high this time around.

    Finally, there is the question of whether a longer lame-duck session could prompt another surge from supporters of the AgJobs Bill. Already in this lame-duck session, House Democrats considered pairing DREAM and AgJobs— which would offer legalization for undocumented farmworkers and ensure a more stable workforce for this country’s growers—when they feared DREAM alone would not pass. The thinking on this combination is that AgJobs would increase the votes in favor by bringing in conservative Democrats and Republicans with rural constituencies. Ultimately, House Democrats opted for DREAM only and managed to get it through the lower chamber. If DREAM looks sure to fail in the Senate, though, and advocates have extra time in the lame-duck session, it is conceivable that the AgJobs lobby (growers and farmworkers) could try a final push for a DREAM / AgJobs combination. After all, if they fail to get anything this December, they—like the DREAM advocates—will likely have to wait at least two years for another chance at anything as appealing as what has been on the table this month.

    Given all these questions, DREAM clearly remains a long-shot to pass the Senate in the lame-duck session, but there are still various moving parts that will determine its ultimate fate. So hang on to your hats—the next week or two could make for a wild ride.

    *Daniel Altschuler is a contributing blogger to  He is a Copeland Fellow at Amherst College and a doctoral candidate in Politics at the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. His research focuses on civic and political participation in Honduras and Guatemala.

    Tags: Immigration, Congress, DREAM Act

  • From Cancún. Latin America’s Own Climate Change Diversity

    December 10, 2010

    by Gonzalo Moyano

    Over the last two weeks in Cancún, some Latin American countries have shown openness to exploring private funding sources and market mechanisms to address climate change, while a small number of others have staked an ideological opposition to market-based climate solutions with little interest in compromise.

    Those that are more flexible in their approach will find themselves better positioned to move ahead with climate initiatives, and will speed along a global greenhouse gas agreement as well.

    The magnitude of funding that is necessary will exceed the capacity of wealthier governments (especially in a time of large deficits) to assist developing nations. Therefore, those countries that don’t accept a broader set of tools for financing mitigation and adaptation measures will have inadequate access to financial resources.

    Even before coming to Cancún, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (a group that includes Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Venezuela) issued a joint statement saying that market mechanisms were not acceptable. Bolivian officials have even declared that capitalism is the root cause of the current climate crisis. At a press conference yesterday, Bolivian President Evo Morales went so far as to say: “Before we said country or death, now we say planet or death. It will be the death of capitalism or the death of the planet. If we try to look for middle ground, we deceive the people of the world.”

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    Tags: Climate change

  • Chileans Have Poor Diets, Study Finds

    December 10, 2010

    by AQ Online

    For a country fiercely protective of its access to the ocean, Chile is not taking full advantage of its access to abundant seafood—which, it turns out, is one cause of poor nutrition among a majority of its population.

    According to a new study by the Catholic University of Chile and Banmedical Foundation, 62 percent of Chileans are considered to have a “poor diet” and 29 percent an “unhealthy diet.” The study attributes the poor performance to the low proportion in Chileans’ diets of protein- and nutrient-rich foods—such as fish, beans, fruits, and vegetables—and the excessively high proportion of sugary foods. Sixty-three percent of Chileans eat more than the recommended amount of sweets, while only 5 percent and 10 percent eat fish and beans, respectively, more than twice a week.

    Federico Leighton, director of the Center for Molecular Nutrition and Chronic Diseases at the Catholic University, said part of the reason for the lack of foods like beans and lentils in Chileans’ diet is that, “despite their nutritional value, [these foods] are mistakenly seen as ‘poor people’s foods.’” Leighton also noted that “bad eating habits go hand in hand with low levels of physical activity and smoking,” increasing the risk of chronic disease.

    Other experts concur, finding that, as Chile and other Latin American countries transition to higher-income economies and “modernize,” people’s changing eating habits, exercise and lifestyles, are having serious implications for their health. Chronic noncommunicable diseases (NDCs), such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and cancer, used to be seen as “diseases of the rich” but have now overtaken the traditional diseases of developing countries—infectious diseases, maternal mortality, malnutrition—as leading killers worldwide. According to Pan American Health Organization data from 2002, NCDs now account for two out of every three deaths in Latin America and the Caribbean.

    Tags: Chile, nutrition, Health, Noncommunicable diseases

  • Haitian Presidential Candidate Contests Election Results

    December 9, 2010

    by AQ Online

    On Tuesday, Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced former first lady Mirlande Manigat had won 31.4 percent of the November 28 presidential vote and that construction company chief Jude Célestin had earned 22.5 percent. The two candidates will compete in a runoff election on January 16.

    Third-place finisher Michel Martelly, a popular singer who is known locally as “Sweet Micky” and “Bald Head,” did not advance to the runoff, having earned 6,845 votes less than Célestin.

    The U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince responded to the CEP announcement with a statement of concern. Locally, thousands of Martelly supporters took to the streets in violent protest. They set fire to Célestin’s party headquarters, blocked streets with rubble from the January 12 earthquake, and ignited hundreds of tires. As a result, four deaths have been reported, businesses and schools were closed and the international airport shut down. In an interview with Haitian radio, Martelly urged his supporters to protest nonviolently—arguing that the only way to challenge the results was through the legal process. However, he added that he would not participate in the runoff if Célestin remained a candidate.

    CEP’s ruling was questioned by international monitors who did not expect Célestin to advance past the first round of voting due to his relatively unknown status among the electorate. Célestin was widely known as incumbent president René Préval’s handpicked successor, and observers allege fraud and ballot-stuffing on the part of the CEP.

    Tags: Haiti, 2010 Haiti elections

  • WikiLeaks and Ecuador

    December 9, 2010

    by Lindsay Green-Barber

    Reactions to the WikiLeaks revelations have ranged from dismissal (Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva), to outrage (Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez) to “I told you so” (Bolivian President Evo Morales). In Ecuador, President Rafael Correa and his administration instead seem to be walking a fine line between outrage and acquiescence.

    Early last week Ecuador’s vice chancellor, Kintto Lucas, extended an invitation to WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange to come to Ecuador. Lucas claimed that Assange would have no problems obtaining residency in Ecuador. Furthermore, Lucas argued that Assange could teach the Ecuador media establishment a thing or two about good journalism.

    President Correa responded the following day saying that Lucas’ invitation did not have the approval of the chancellor or of the President. In his rebuttal, Correa also noted that the Ecuadorian government respects U.S. law and would support any charges against Assange for violations of the law. Correa simultaneously stated that his administration was unhappy with the content of the leaked documents and would be carefully reviewing those relevant to Ecuador, as well as those relevant to actual or attempted golpes in the region.

    Read More

    Tags: Ecuador, Rafael Correa

  • Weekly Roundup From Across the Americas

    December 9, 2010

    by AS-COA Online

    From the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.

    Sign up to receive the Weekly Roundup via email.

    Haitian Presidential Election Outcome Sparks Riots

    Haiti's Provisional Electoral Council announced late Tuesday a runoff would be needed to choose between two presidential candidates, former first lady Mirlande Manigat and Jude Célestin, outgoing President Réne Préval's handpicked successor. Célestin narrowly edged out Michel Martelly to finish second in a vote that took place November 28 and was seen by many critics as tainted by fraud. After the results were announced, Martelly’s supporters took to the streets across the country in violent protest, denouncing the election results as fraudulent.

    Read More


  • Hispanics Account for 25 Percent of U.S. Youth

    December 8, 2010

    by AQ Online

    According to 2010 U.S. Census projections released this week, Hispanics under the age of 20 make up between 21.8 percent and 25 percent of the total youth population in the U.S.—a significant increase over the 17 percent calculations derived from the 2000 U.S. Census.  The 2010 figures are based on birth, death, Medicare registrations, and new immigrant population statistics as of April 1, 2010, and highlight the demographic impact of the largest minority group in the country.  Without the growth in the Hispanic-youth segment, the non-Hispanic youth population would have shown a decline of between 1.25 and 2.9 million. 

    The announcement comes on the heels of the DREAM Act, which could come up for a vote in both chambers of Congress later today.  The “Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors,” or DREAM Act, would create a conditional pathway to legal residency for thousands of young, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. by their parents.  Estimates from the Congressional Budget Office show that passing this bill would bring between 300,000 to 500,000 of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and potentially boost military recruitment and give employers access to a larger pool of motivated young workers.

    Similar legislation failed to pass in 2007. 

    Tags: Immigration, hispanics in U.S., U.S. Census

  • Argentina, Brazil Recognize Sovereign Palestinian State

    December 7, 2010

    by AQ Online


    The Argentine government officially recognized Palestine as a free and independent state, Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman said on Monday. In a letter to the president of the National Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner recognized Palestine’s borders as they were defined in 1967, before Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza during the Arab-Israeli War. Argentina’s announcement follows a similar statement of recognition made by Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Relations last Friday.

    Only months after Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed over settlement issues, Argentina and Brazil’s statements were drew both praise and condemnation. The Palestine Liberation Organization said the support from the South American powers sends a message of respect for international law and against colonialism. The Israel government, on the other hand, condemned the recognition of Palestine as deceiving, lamentable and counterproductive to peace negotiations.

    Several Middle Eastern nations have been working to build stronger diplomatic ties with Latin America. Perhaps the best example is the relationship between Brazil and Iran which is centered on energy cooperation. Uruguay, a sovereign member of Mercosur along with Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, has publicly announced its plans to recognize Palestine in early 2011. However, Israel remains a key partner for Latin America, and is the first non-Latin American nation to sign a free-trade agreement with Mercosur.

    Tags: Brazil, Argentina, Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Recognition, Statehood

  • Mexican Heroes We Shouldn’t Have

    December 7, 2010

    by Arjan Shahani

    On November 13a group of drug dealers approached Don Alejo Garza Tamez in his ranch on the outskirts of Ciudad Victoria, in the troubled border state of Tamaulipas. They threatened Don Alejo and demanded that he hand over his land, which given its strategic location would have been used to harbor narcotic trafficking operations. They told him he had 24 hours to vacate the premises on his own free will or they would take the ranch using deadly force.

    After the criminal group left, the 77-year-old businessman rounded up all ranch workers and asked them to go home for a couple of days, assuring them that nothing bad would happen. A hunter by trade, Don Alejo spent the rest of the day cleaning his guns and rifles and transforming the ranch into a trench.

    When the drug dealers came back the next day expecting Don Alejo to give up at the sight of their heavy artillery, they faced a fierce combatant who gunned down at least four of them before taking a deadly hit. The criminals who survived the exchange escaped in their trucks leaving a dirt trail and the bodies of their friends behind.

    What is most relevant of this story is not the fact in itself, but what it inspired and what it symbolizes for a tired and disenfranchised nation. The story of Don Alejo made the headlines of all major national newspapers. Respected journalists like Denise Maerker and Ciro Gomez Leyva were quick to hail him as a folk hero. In just a couple of days, stories about him hit the usual social media websites and today the letters “don a” are enough to bring up his full name as the first hit in Google Mexico’s instant search bar. Norteño music bands have already dedicated at least three songs to him and his story has spurred up a national debate about the right to carry weapons for self-defense.

    Read More

    Tags: Mexico, Crime and Security

  • Venezuelans Cast Ballots in Regional Elections

    December 6, 2010

    by AQ Online

    On Sunday, Venezuelans cast their votes for the governors of Guárico and Amazonas states and for 11 mayoral seats including that of Venezuela’s second largest city, Maracaibo.  This was the first vote since President Hugo Chávez’ Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV) lost its two-thirds majority in parliamentary elections last September.

    In all, the opposition won in four municipalities and in one state. This brings their control of governorships to six of a total of 24.

    In Maracaibo, Venezuela’s second-largest city, Eveling Trejo de Rosales will become the city’s first female mayor winning 58.68 percent of ballots cast. Her victory against against PSUV candidate Gian Carlos Di Martino is an especially symbolic pick-up for the opposition. The mayor-elect is the wife of former Maracaibo mayor Manuel Rosales, who is currently in exile in Peru. “Manuel returns to the mayorship because Eveling Trejo arrives with him,” she exclaimed in her victory speech.

    Elections were held with "complete normality," according to Socorro Hernández, head of the National Electoral Council (CNE), despite heavy rains that have left 30 dead and more than 72,000 homeless.

    View the results for the remainder of the regions.

    Tags: Mayor elections, Eveling Trejo de Rosales, Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela

  • Deforestation in the Amazon at All-Time Low

    December 3, 2010

    by AQ Online

    The Brazilian government announced this week that deforestation in the Amazon fell 14 percent in the August 2009 to July 2010 period compared with the previous year. Satellite monitoring showed that 6,450 square kilometers (2,490 square miles) of the world’s biggest rainforest were cleared during this latest reporting period—a stark decline from a peak of 29,100 square kilometers (11,235 square miles) in the 1994 to 1995 period.

    The government’s announcement coincided with a United Nations global climate conference in Cancún, Mexico, in which Brazil wants to showcase its progress and reiterate its commitment to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Isabella Teixeira, Brazil’s Minister of the Environment, said the achievement means Brazil is well on its way to achieving its self-imposed goal of reducing deforestation—a major contributor to the country’s overall carbon emissions—by 80 percent over historic highs by 2020. Brazil is likely to use the news to seek a bigger role in climate negotiations, especially under the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), where it could potentially get paid billions for slowing deforestation.

    At a ceremony Wednesday in Brasília, the Brazilian government criticized industrial nations for not doing their part to commute greenhouse gas emissions. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said news of the reduction showed Brazil was “keeping its promises” on addressing global warming, while advanced countries “are still not doing anything.”

    Environmental groups, including Greenpeace International, celebrated the announcement as proof that deforestation can be halted—and accompany a period of economic expansion. The low rate of deforestation can be attributed both to increased policing and pressure from consumer groups, with the government fining illegal cattle ranchers and loggers and confiscating their products, and the beef and soy industries voluntarily banning products from illegally deforested areas.

    Tags: Brazil, Amazon, Climate change, Deforestation

  • Paraguay to Support Venezuela’s Mercosur Bid

    December 2, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Paraguay’s Senate is expected next week to vote in favor of Venezuela’s bid to join Mercosur—Mercado Común del Sur or Southern Common Market. The anticipated approval will be Venezuela’s final hurdle before assuming full membership of Latin America’s preeminent trade bloc, completing the process it began in 2006.

    Mercosur nations are divided into three categories: full members, associate members and observers. Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay are the founding signatories and full member nations; Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru comprise the associate members, while Mexico is the only observer. The parliaments of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay have already ratified Venezuela’s bid. The Paraguayan Senate needs 23 of 45 senators to support the measure, and observers predict that the simple majority will favor it despite the Senate being controlled by the opposition Colorado party.

    Venezuela’s robust supply of oil and energy commodities is attractive to Paraguay, although Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’ indifference to Mercosur’s “democratic clause” is a point of concern to Paraguayan senators who oppose the bid. It has also been reported that President Lugo’s administration, which strongly favors Venezuela’s accession, has promised high-level political appointments to undecided senators—particularly those in the UNACE party, a former faction of Colorado.

    Tags: Venezuela, Mercosur, Paraguay, Hugo Chavez, Fernando Lugo

  • Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

    December 1, 2010

    by AS-COA Online

    From the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.

    Sign up to receive the Weekly Roundup via email.

    Waiting for the WikiLeaks Shoe to Drop in Latin America

    WikiLeaks continues to reveal U.S. government cables, which The Miami Herald says are “fueling a wave of rumors and resentment in Latin America.” A few hundred of the 251,287 confidential cables have been released so far, leaving many countries waiting for the other shoe to drop. For example, 2,836 of the cables are relevant to Mexico, but it’s not clear yet when the records will go public.

    Still, news relevant to the hemisphere has been trickling out , with some of the latest documents revealed on December 1 showing that the “United States saw big opportunities in helping Brazil boost its military capabilities as a way of ‘supporting U.S. interests,’” according to AFP. Other leaks range from topics such as Bolivian President Evo Morales purported sinus tumor to a description of the interim government that led Honduras after the 2009 coup as “totally illegitimate” to Cuban spies advising the Venezuelan government in what one diplomat called an “Axis of Mischief.” Global Voices looks at blog coverage of a range of leaked cables relevant to the Americas.

    Speaking to The Christian Science Monitor, AS/COA Senior Policy Director Chris Sabatini said “I think most of what is going to be found will embarrass other leaders but will not do much to embarrass U.S. leaders.”

    Read More

    Tags: Haiti, Weekly Roundup, Wikileaks, Mexican Drugs

  • Poverty in Latin America Decreases

    December 1, 2010

    by AQ Online

    According to the Social Panorama of Latin America 2010 report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) released today, poverty in Latin America has fallen in 2010 to levels not seen since 2008. This is a result of a strong economic recovery fueled by higher commodity prices.  Alicia Barcena, head of ECLAC, said Latin America was once again on track to reducing poverty as it had been since 2003. That was briefly interrupted with the economic crisis that began in 2009. 

    The report, presented in Santiago, Chile, highlights poverty reductions in Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, and Panama of nearly 10 percent due largely to newly implemented income distribution policies in those countries.  However, Argentina, Peru and Venezuela experienced even greater reductions in poverty of between 20 percent and 30 percent.  Only Costa Rica had no measured improvement in reducing poverty. 

    In all, nearly 41 million Latin Americans will have managed to get out of poverty this year reducing the total number of Latin Americans in poverty to 180 million or 32.1 percent of the total population.  Latin Americans living in extreme poverty also fell to 2008 levels of 72 million people or 12.9 percent of the population.

    Tags: Chile, Peru, Brazil, Panama, Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina, Social Panorama of Latin America 2010, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean poverty

  • Post-Election Prospects For High Speed Rail

    November 30, 2010

    by John Parisella

    The votes were barely tallied and already the politics of high speed rail had begun. Some Republican gubernatorial candidates, freshly elected, were already asking that high speed rail (HSR) funds be reallocated to other transport priorities.

    Democratic Governors-elect like Andrew Cuomo of New York, Pat Quinn of Illinois and Jerry Brown of California were soon requesting that the rejected funds be reallocated to their states. Against this backdrop, the advocacy group U.S. High Speed Rail Association (USHSR) held a first post-election conference with a who's who of HSR including Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and former Transportation Secretary Norm Minetta, forging more consensus. By mid-November, it was certain the Administration remained solidly behind their HSR vision, but Republicans were sending mixed messages.

    Is the Obama-Biden initiative in danger? With Spain and China currently making significant investments in HSR, would America once again stand back while other countries are forging ahead? There are no simple answers to these questions.

    Read More

    Tags: transportation policy

  • WikiLeaks Targets U.S.-Latin America Ties

    November 30, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Many of the 250,000 diplomatic documents and cables leaked on Sunday by whistleblower site WikiLeaks address U.S. relationships with Latin American heads of state. And while U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is characterizing the leaks as “an attack on the international community” as well as on American foreign policy interests, Ecuadorian  Ecuadorian Deputy Foreign Minister Kinto Lucas has extended an invitation to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to come to Ecuador.

    On Tuesday, Lucas told Ecuadorinmediato, “We are ready to give him [Assange] residence in Ecuador, with no problems and no conditions… We are going to invite him to come to Ecuador so he can freely present the information he possesses and all the documentation, not just on the Internet, but in various public forums.”

    Venezuela, Argentina and Honduras are the subjects of some of the most noteworthy leaked documents concerning Latin America.

    One document was issued one month after the 2008 military coup in Honduras. In the cable, U.S. Ambassador  to Honduras Hugo Llorens calls the ouster of former President Manuel Zelaya “clearly illegal,” and the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti “totally illegitimate.”

    Venezuela is the subject of 2,300 of the leaked cables, most of which concern President Hugo Chávez. In a 2009 cable, a French official named Jean-David Levitte called Chávez “crazy” and said that "Brazil was not able to support him anymore." Levitte goes on to say that "Chávez is taking one of Latin America's richest countries and turning it into another Zimbabwe.” The Venezuelan President responded on Monday evening: “Somebody should resign ... I'm not saying [President Barack] Obama, but they should do it out of shame ... It is their empire left naked.”

    Argentina was the subject of 2,200 cables. In one exchange in late 2009, Secretary Clinton questions the mental state and decision-making of both President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her late-husband, former President Néstor Kirchner.

    The whistle-blowing website has also reportedly obtained 2,836 U.S. documents concerning Mexico, but most of those have yet to be released.

    WikiLeaks also revealed that the U.S. offered millions of dollars worth of incentives to countries like Slovenia and Kiribati in exchange for taking detainees out of Guantanamo Bay. In an interview with the BBC, Amb. John Negroponte, who has served as U.S. ambassador to Mexico and Honduras, said today that the release of WikiLeaks cables “will damage [the U.S.’s] ability to conduct diplomacy.”

    Tags: President Hugo Chavez, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Wikileaks

  • Wikileaks and the Honduran Coup

    November 29, 2010

    by Daniel Altschuler

    The recent release of hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables by Wikileaks will undoubtedly focus the greatest attention on U.S. policy in the Middle East, but it could also shake things up in Latin America.  Already, one of the leaked diplomatic cables has revealed the United States embassy’s assessment of the Honduran coup as a conspiracy against President Zelaya by the Supreme Court, Congress and military.

    The summary reads as follows:

    The Embassy perspective is that there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired  on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and  unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch, while accepting that there may be a prima facie case that Zelaya may  have committed illegalities and may have even violated the  constitution.  There is equally no doubt from our perspective that Roberto Micheletti's assumption of power was illegitimate.  Nevertheless, it is also evident that the constitution itself may be deficient in terms of providing  clear procedures for dealing with alleged illegal acts by the President and resolving conflicts between the branches  of government.

    The cable then offers a detailed legal analysis of the coup.  It acknowledges that there was reason for concern that Zelaya might have acted—or subsequently act—illegally, and that the Honduran constitution is plagued by ambiguity on matters relating to impeachment.  But it finds that the lion’s share of accusations against Zelaya were either based on supposition or fabrication.  The cable then concludes that the Congress lacked the authority to remove Zelaya, as his removal from power would require court proceedings and due process.  His capture by the military and removal from the country was also completely unjustified. 

    This cable is both remarkable and it is not.

    First, what is not really news: that Ambassador Hugo Llorens, the U.S. State Department and the Obama administration knew that what took place was a coup.  Lest it go unsaid, the Obama administration categorically rejected Zelaya’s ouster all along.  Hugo Llorens, then-U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and all the other State Department officials involved in this matter were quite clear about the illegality of Zelaya’s ouster and the illegitimacyof Micheletti’s de facto government.

    But this cable is still remarkable for its tone and its level of detail.  By using the language of “conspiracy” and systematically debunking the arguments made by coup supporters, the cable makes the wrong of Zelaya’s removal abundantly clear. Today, the revelation of the Llorens cable is the top headline in Honduran newspapers, where it will hopefully advance public debate within the country about last year’s crisis.

    The cable also undermines the arguments made in an influential Law Library of Congress Report, which argued that Zelaya’s removal from power (though not from the country) was legal.  Conservatives in the United States used this report to claim that Zelaya’s ouster was really just Honduras’ version of a legal impeachment.  Republicans in Congress kept pushing this line, using it as a tool to pressure the State Department and place holds on presidential appointments. 

    This pressure made the Honduras affair a headache for the Obama administration, which tried to wash its hands of the matter by prematurely stating it would recognize the November 2009 elections.   Meanwhile, there was little pushback from within the Obama administration on the details of the events leading to the coup. 

    The leaked analysis by the embassy offers such a systematic rejection pro-coup case, but it was never advanced publicly.  Had the administration made public such an assessment of the Honduran coup—and its implicit rejection of the LLC report—it would have provided a useful tool for refuting the spurious arguments made by conservatives.  Instead, as summer 2009 drew to a close, the position that the coup was a defense of the rule of law gained traction inside the Beltway. 

    This dealt a blow to both the chances of Zelaya’s restitution and defenders of democracy in the Americas more generally. 

    *Daniel Altschuler is a contributing blogger to  He is a Copeland Fellow at Amherst College and a doctoral candidate in Politics at the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. His research focuses on civic and political participation in Honduras and Guatemala.

    Tags: Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, Roberto Micheletti, Wikileaks, Hugo Llorens

  • Allegations of Fraud Mar Haitian Vote

    November 29, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Haitians took to the polls—and then to the streets—yesterday on election day for President René Préval’s successor amid political violence and widespread accusations of fraud. Among the 18 candidates, much attention on election day and now afterwards is focusing on the actions of Mirlande Manigat of the Rally of Progressive National Democrats party (RDNP). She is the presidential front runner with the latest opinion polls giving her an 8 percent lead over any other candidate.

    Manigat, a 70-year-old former first lady and current assistant dean of Quisqueya University has been a primary voice of opposition against President Préval’s government. On Sunday, she called for the Provisional Electoral Council to annul the election due to widespread irregularities.  "This election is not important for me. It's important for the country. Haitians do not want continuity. They want change, to see a rupture from the past," according to Manigat. 

    For the Haitians who turned out to vote, despite danger of protests and the omnipotent threat of Cholera, many were not able to cast their ballot. Names were often missing from the list of registrated voters or polling stations were simply closed. There were even reports of an assassination attempt on presidential candidate Michel Martelly, better known by his stage name, “Sweet Micky.” As of Sunday night, 12 of the 18 candidates had denounced the elections as illegitimate.

    Many voters and presidential contenders alike are blaming President Préval’s government for the electoral uncertainties. Presidential candidate Anne Marie Josette Bijou claimed that Préval, in agreement with the electoral council, is tampering with the elections to benefit the government-endorsed candidate, Jude Celestin. On Sunday the electoral council said there were irregularities at 56 of the 1,500 voting centers. 

    Tags: René Préval, Rally of Progressive National Democrats, Mirlande Manigat, Haiti elections

  • Costa Rica-Nicaragua Dispute Goes Viral

    November 25, 2010

    by Alex Leff

    The San Juan River has not been the only focal point of the Costa Rica-Nicaragua conflict that has been brewing for over a month. Another battle ground, whose boundaries are far less defined than the countries' river border, reared its head in the dispute: the Internet.

    In a region not especially known for its computer savvy, a form of Web 2.0 diplomacy has unexpectedly emerged.

    It began when Costa Rica and Nicaragua dragged Google Maps into the fray. Costa Rica claimed the online map's outline of the border was wrong and Nicaragua insisted the map was just fine the way it was.

    Google's replies are now world famous. They included the November 5 post on its Spanish-language El Blog de Google para América Latina that said, "while Google maps have a very high quality… in no way should they be taken as reference in the moment of deciding military actions between two nations."

    Read More

    Tags: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, International conflict

  • La Generación Bicentenario

    November 24, 2010

    by Julio Rank Wright

    La primera semana de Noviembre se llevó a cabo el 11º Foro de Biarritz, espacio donde altas autoridades políticas, académicas y económicas de Europa y Latinoamérica discuten los retos y oportunidades para reconfigurar una nueva relación comercial, cultural y política entre ambas regiones. El Foro pudiese haberse parecido a los diez anteriores sin embargo la visión del Presidente del Foro y Ex Presidente de Colombia, Ernesto Samper, de brindarle un espacio a un grupo de jóvenes latinoamericanos para plantear los retos del futuro abrió paso al nacimiento del Grupo Generación Bicentenario.

    Algunos extractos del documento que se produjo se comparten a continuación por el profundo clivaje generacional que representan y la tremenda fuerza y deseo de transformaciones políticas, económicas y sociales que propone la Generación del Ahora:

    Read More

    Tags: Youth

  • Brazil and the Global Currency War

    November 24, 2010

    by Ryan Berger

    It was hardly a slip of the tongue when Guido Mantega, Brazil’s minister of finance, coined the term “currency war” in late September when describing the state of the global economy. His bold statement publicly reflected the private concerns of investors and policymakers worried about the amount of government intervention worldwide to curb currency appreciation.

    This is a particular concern for Mr. Mantega, whose country is home to one of the world’s strongest currencies. In the first ten months of 2010, the Brazilian real gained 4.5 percent on the U.S. dollar and a whopping 25 percent since early 2009.

    Originally the finance minister preferred to limit public spending, opposing devaluation of any kind. But he quickly reversed course when many emerging economies, notably in the Asia-Pacific region, lowered their respective exchange rates. The result: when one country intentionally devalues its currency, its exports become cheaper to foreign consumers and imports more expensive to domestic buyers. When other nations follow suit, this practice, known as competitive devaluation, drives down the economic competitiveness of all nations.

    To remain competitive, Mr. Mantega increased the tax rate for foreign investments of fixed-income securities two separate times—the second time only one week after speaking at the Americas Society and Council of the Americas in mid-October. Outside economists defended his actions, noting that investors would nonetheless continue to focus on BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) countries in the interest of high returns on investment.

    Now Brazil has emerged as perhaps the leading critic among developing economies on the U.S. role in a currency war. Mr. Mantega suggested non-expansionary measures to increase demand and consumption, but got the opposite when earlier this month the Federal Reserve announced it would buy back $600 billion in government bonds. Known as quantitative easing, the Fed essentially gave itself license to print new money and increase liquidity to raise bond prices and lower long-term interest rates. Brazil did not react kindly; President-elect Dilma Rousseff blasted the move as “disguised devaluation.”

    Mr. Mantega recommended that developed nations agree on a consolidated action plan at the International Monetary Fund meetings in Washington DC in October and the G-20 summit in South Korea earlier this month. But if the missions of the two gatherings were to advance discussion on the issue, then they both failed miserably.

    Read More

    Tags: Brazil, China, Guido Mantega, Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke

  • Lula Not Interested in UNASUR Leadership

    November 24, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has dismissed any speculation that he will take over the vacated leadership position of the Unión de Naciones SurAmericanas (UNASUR) when he leaves office in January, according to his spokesman, Marcelo Baumbach.  The leadership position of UNASUR currently remains vacant following the October 27 passing of former Argentine President Néstor Kirchner.  Baumbach further stated in comments yesterday that Brazil had no candidate to fill the position ahead of the UNASUR summit in Guyana this Friday. 

    Lula’s post-presidency plans remain speculative though he has made statements specifically addressing his desire to remove himself from public service.  After stepping down in January, Lula plans to do a lot of “resting” and “traveling” throughout Brazil while further pledging to “extract myself from the presidency.”  On representing the country abroad, Lula has stated “I don’t look like an ambassador.  I don’t want to be an ambassador.  I just want to be a simple Brazilian citizen once more and travel a lot across Brazil.”

    This Friday’s UNASUR meeting in Guyana is not likely to include electing a new head for the multi-national organization as it seems that no countries have candidates for the post.  The summit will instead focus on the possible creation of a human rights council and on the adoption of a “democratic clause” that would suspend countries transitioning power by non-constitutional means from UNASUR.  This clause is being discussed as a response to “the crisis caused by the police uprising” in Ecuador on September 30, Baumbach said.  President Lula will use this Friday’s meeting as an opportunity to also meet with Guyana’s President Bharat Jagdeo to discuss joint infrastructure projects. 

    Tags: Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, UNASUR, Brazil-Guyana relations

  • Argentina’s Proposal to Pay Off its Debt

    November 23, 2010

    by Janie Hulse Najenson

    The grace period granted to President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner after the sudden death of her husband and life-long political partner on October 27 has ended with physical violence in congress. Heated debates on November 17 over the 2011 budget ended when opposition congresswoman and president of the Commission on Constitutional Affairs, Graciela Camaño, publicly slapped fellow congressman Carlos Kunkel. With the opposition’s slight majority in both houses of congress, the government has its work cut out to pass its budget plan. The administration is taking an all-or-nothing approach to its legislative proposal and the result is division, fighting and accusations of vote-buying by Kirchner supporters.

    Partly as a means to distract from days of deadlock over the budget, President Fernández made a televised announcement on November 15 that her government will start negotiations with the Paris Club, an informal grouping of lenders from the world’s principal economies, to pay off the last of its debt since its $100 billion default in 2001. She emphasized that the negotiations will take place without the intervention from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

    Any deal will cost the government anywhere from $6.5 billion to $8 billion, and it remains to be seen where it will get the money. It could tap into the $52 billion in international reserves, but it needs congressional approval to do so. This could be tough. Indeed, its current budgetary proposal includes an earmark of $7.5 billion of Central Bank funds to be used for debt payments, but congress is fighting tooth and nail to prevent its passage. Then there is the possibility that the government will issue sovereign bonds to generate the cash in 2011.

    Read More

    Tags: Argentina, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

  • El Salvador Considers Establishing Diplomatic Relations with China

    November 23, 2010

    by AQ Online

    Ahead of this week’s first annual China-oriented trade exposition in San Salvador that is expected to include over 50 Chinese business representatives, President Mauricio Funes of El Salvador said Monday that his administration would explore establishing diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. Funes added that he would do so only if it were in the economic interests of his country.

    Presently, El Salvador has diplomatic relations with the Republic of China—commonly referred to as Taiwan. In accordance with Chinese policy, China refuses to engage in diplomatic activity with any nation that acknowledges Taiwan. For Taiwan, it fears that El Salvador will repeat what Costa Rica did in 2007: break off relations in favor of a partnership with China that includes greater economic benefits from access to a substantially larger market. However, despite Costa Rica’s actions, all other Central American countries have chosen to maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

    A Taiwanese source confirmed Tuesday that Taiwan’s ambassador to El Salvador received guarantees that diplomatic relations would not be broken off. The same source noted that any of China’s attempts to poach Taiwan’s allies would have a negative effect on Taiwan-China relations, which have improved dramatically in recent years under the presidency of Ma Ying-jeou.

    Tags: El Salvador, China, Mauricio Funes



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AQ and Efecto Naím: NTN24 Partnership

June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.